Colombia

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: I too am a woman

Increasingly, in our Colombian context, the terms “gender equality,” “women’s rights,” and “women in leadership” are being discussed, trampled on, and fought for.

Gender is a touchy subject.  No one wants to be called a sexist or machista.  Women are timidly and boldly stepping forward, and men are shuffling aside, abashed and apologizing as they tiptoe aimlessly around the stage.

CPT welcomes these spaces of dialogue because even through tears and frustrations, we hope to continue listening and learning along our journey for justice.  So we were very excited CAHUCOPANA asked us to accompany its members to Dos Quebradas for the First Regional Meeting of Women from Northeastern Antioquia: “For the Defence of Land and Dignity” 30-31 May 2014.

I was grateful to take part in sessions about unsung women heroines in Colombia’s history and panels with the women leading today’s agricultural movement, as well as a citizen’s workshop where the women of Northeastern Antioquia defined what peace meant to them.  The workshop led to the construction of a political declaration in which these women envisioned alternatives for ending the social violence and military conflict by transforming economical, social, and cultural norms and by creating space for women as political actors.  But the moment that had the most impact for me was an evening fireside conversation around apple sugar cane tea.

COLOMBIA POEM/VIDEO: What's your story?

 

 

¿Cuál es tu historia? from CPT/ECAP Colombia on Vimeo.

on Vimeo.

 

1

Where are you coming from, my brother?

Who took away your land and sent the police after you?

Hasn’t the pain left a wound,

Or have you left your soul on your land?

2

Isn’t it enough to be a repressed woman

who has dedicated herself to harvesting pain?

You are a victim of killer bullets,

shots from the thugs of this terrible oligarchy.

COLOMBIA: Ten questions for the next president

The Colombian people went to the polls on 25 May to elect a new leader for the country.  The incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos was seeking re-election in a race against five candidates, all aspiring to the most powerful office in the land and discussing issues such as education, corruption, environment, and as always, the peace accords with Colombia’s FARC guerilla organization.  He will face Colombian ex-finance minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in a 15 June 2014 runoff election.




Sign caption: "Dialogue is the way"

We as CPT Colombia, hope the next president fulfills her/his promise and works for the Colombian people.  Based on our work, the requests of our partners, and communities we accompany, we have created a list of questions that we would like to ask the next president that highlight some of our concerns and key issues for Colombia today:

1. Will you continue peace negotiations with the FARC-EP and ELN?

2. Are you willing to re-negotiate Free Trade Agreements in favor of Colombian small farmers?

COLOMBIA: CPT accompanying CAHUCOPANA after threats to members by masked men

Later this week, CPT Colombia will be accompanying CAHUCOPANA to the First Regional Meeting of Women of Northeast Antioquia “In defence of the territory and dignity” taking place in Dos Quebradas.  As CAHUCOPANA prepares for the upcoming workshop, their members have received threats and harassment from armed masked men wearing uniforms with no identification, presumed to be Colombian military.

The following official complaint describes the harassment of Carlos Alfredo Palacio Usuga of CAHUCOPANA and Noemí Durango Pérez of the regional Women’s Team for Humanitarian Action and makes three demands:

  1. Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos and his government must act accordingly to ensure the respect of human rights in the region;
  2. Respective authorities need to investigate the case and those guilty be penalized according to the infractions of International Humanitarian Law and the violations of the communities’ human rights;
  3. UN High Commission for Human Rights in Colombia should monitor the situation and recommend a course of action for the Colombian government.

COLOMBIA: The National Agrarian Strike strikes again

From 28 April to 9 May 2014, 3,000 farmers and miners from the Southern Bolivar, Catatumbo, and Cesar regions mobilized near the small town of Norean (three hours north of Barrancabermeja) along with thousands across the country as part of the National Strike, to pressure the national government to negotiate with their leaders in Bogota.  This gathering was the second such mobilization in less than a year, convened after the government failed to fulfill the agreements that ended the first one.


“Excuse us for the inconveniences, we are struggling to guarantee our food sovereignty. Strike for progress. CISCA [Catatumbo
Committee for Social Integration]

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 14, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 14, 2014

Pray that the Colombian government will fulfill its agreements with small-scale farmers who went on strike in April and May and not pursue a divide and conquer strategy as happened during last year’s agrarian strike.

Epixel* for 18 May 2014

My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Psalm 31:15
Farmers in Suaza-Florencia are attacked by Colombian National Police 2 May 2014 photo María Antonieta Cano @AntonietaCano
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's RevisedCommon Lectionary readings.

COLOMBIA: Five-thousand small-scale farmers arrive in Aguachica




On Tuesday, 6 May 2014, a thousand riot police and military personnel arrived in the small town of Norian, just north of Aguachica, and surrounded five thousand small-scale farmers who had begun to gather there since 1 May.  This display of force and the restriction of movement has been a part of the government’s strategy to clamp down on the growing Agrarian Strike.

Earlier on Wednesday, police detained 300 farmers traveling to Medellin on the pretext that they would be a threat to the residents of Medellin, since the public forces did not have enough personnel.

We are curating stories of the Agrarian Strike here

COLOMBIA URGENT ACTION: Send e-mail to U.S. State Dept this week urging suspension of aid to Colombian military


Take Action: Send a message to the State Department



In the coming week, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) will be issuing a report about the “False Positive” murders committed by the Colombian military entitled “The Rise and Fall of ‘False Positive’ Killings in Colombia.” (“False positives” were executions of civilians by troops who then claimed the victims were guerrillas killed in combat.)  The research in the report shows that of the Colombian School of the Americas/WHINSEC instructors and graduates from 2001 to 2003 for which information was available, twelve of them 48% had either been charged with a serious crime or commanded units whose members had reportedly committed multiple extrajudicial killings.  John Lindsay Poland, author of the report, will be meeting with State Department Representatives this week.

Accordingly, FOR, SOAWatch, and other NGOs think it is important at this time for immediate e-mail pressure on the State Department to end assistance to the Colombian military.  In February, General Jaime Lasprilla Villamizar was appointed commander of the Colombian Army.  A former instructor at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the School of the Americas) General Lasprilla previously commanded Task Force Omega, which received tens of millions of dollars in U.S. training, supplies and equipment, under Washington’s ill-conceived drug war and “war on terror.”  In 2006-2007, Lasprilla directed the Ninth Brigade in Colombia’s Huila Department, which was responsible for at least seventy-five killings of civilians under his command.  Lasprilla’s appointment shows that Colombia is continuing its culture of impunity regarding military human rights abuses.

COLOMBIA: Holy Week delegation transforms gate of oppression at Las Pavas

On 16 April 2014 our twelve-person delegation traveled by van, motorized canoe, and foot to the community of Las Pavas.

We arrived at a community in mourning for the death of Rogelio Campos Gonzales.  Also known as “Pipio,” he died on 13 April, after suffering a heart attack.  Those living on the farm struggle with the question, “if the gate [that the palm oil company Aportes San Isidro had installed across the one road leading into Las Pavas to access difficult] did not exist, would it have been possible to avoid this tragedy?”

Even during this difficult time for the community, they received us with love and told and sang their stories.  While we listened, it was difficult to contain our emotions.

The gate for the people of Las Pavas represents oppression, death, isolation, discrimination, humiliation, and prison.  One of the purposes of our trip was to participate in a public action to redefine the gate that the security guards use to control movement from a symbol of oppression into a symbol of hope, peace, and freedom.

 

 

COLOMBIA: The People’s Land Summit, March’s March, and an Ultimatum

 

CAHUCOPANA, a grass-roots campesino organization that formed to defend the land and human rights of the campesinos in north-east Antioquia, has learnt that sometimes you have to leave your home to defend it. CAHUCOPANA asked CPT’s Colombia team to accompany dozens of buses from the department of Antioquia to join about thirty thousand demonstrators in a march in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, on 17 March 2014.

The march was planned to conclude and compliment the People’s Land Summit, also held in Bogotá.  The Summit itself, in which CAHUCOPANA also participated, was in response to the national government’s failure to live up to the commitments it had made as part of negotiations to end a nation-wide general strike in August of 2013. After having first met with and consulting their constituencies, leaders of various social movements and organizations got together for a Summit in Bogotá to decide how they could collectively best organize an appropriate response.

Participants included indigenous, Afro-descendant, campesino, artisanal miner federations, students, and others.  Although the government did consult with agro-industry and other huge stakeholders, it failed to honour its commitment to consult with or address the concerns of those who organized and took part in last year’s general strike. The Summit, therefore, came up with its own criteria and blueprint for an inclusive Colombian agrarian policy.  After the Summit, they presented the government with that blueprint and an ultimatum: comply with our demands by the first week of May, or face the consequences of another paralysing nation-wide civil strike.